Few technologies are as complicated to explain as 4G LTE. Last year I worked with a group of leaders for the division of a global, publicly traded company who were responsible for pitching the technology to potential customers. Since the group was struggling to explain the technology simply, I introduced them to a tool that I’ve used very successfully with other brands—a message map.
The leaders in this particular division were responsible for pitching the technology to public safety agencies. Their audience knew a lot about police work, but had little knowledge about wireless broadband. Imagine if the head of a public service agency heard something like this: 4G LTE is a standard for the wireless communication of high-speed data based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA network technologies, increasing the capacity and speed of new modulation techniques. Not one person would have acted on the pitch because they wouldn’t be able to understand a word of it!
Instead we created a pitch that started with this sentence: 4G is a mobile broadband technology that will change the way your department communicates, collaborates, and operates. The audience got it in one sentence. The message was so simple and effective, the company landed several multi-million dollar accounts after their first meetings and they credited the message map for helping them pitch the idea in a simple, yet compelling way. The message map gave everyone (sales, marketing, executive leadership) a roadmap for the customer conversation. “Without a doubt it improved the confidence of our sales and marketing teams to articulate our value, our mission, and why our product would make a difference,” one leader told me.
Build a message map in 3-steps. A message map is the visual display of your idea on one page. It is a powerful and tool that should be a part of your communication arsenal. Building a message map can help you pitch anything (a product, service, company, or idea) in as little as 15 seconds. Here is the three-step process to using a message map to build a winning pitch. For this exercise you will need a notepad, word document, PowerPoint slide, or whiteboard.
Step One. Create a Twitter-friendly headline.
The headline is the one single overarching message that you want your customers to know about the product. Ask yourself, “What is the single most important thing I want my listener to know about my [product, service, brand, idea].” Draw a circle at the top of the message and insert the headline. Make sure your headline fits in a Twitter post – no more than 140 characters. If you cannot explain your product or idea in 140 characters or less, go back to the drawing board.
Step Two. Support the headline with three key benefits. As I discussed in a previous article, the human mind can only process about three pieces of information in short-term memory. Specifically outline the three or, at most, four benefits of your product. Draw three arrows from the headline to each of the key supporting messages.
Step Three. Reinforce the three benefits with stories, statistics, and examples. Add bullet points to each of the three supporting messages. You don’t have to write out the entire story. Instead write a few words that will prompt you to deliver the story. Remember, the entire message map must fit on one page.
You can create a message map for any product or a brand. Lets use the example of soap. If you can sell soap, you can pitch anything. Lush is a global chain of stores that sells soaps and cosmetics. It has about 100 locations around the world. They literally stock hundreds of items. Although the brand takes the unusual step of sending new products to each of its employees, it wouldn’t be feasible, nor necessary, to create a message map about each product.
This video illustrates the steps outlined below: